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Archive for Monday, May 20, 2002

World Briefs

May 20, 2002

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Czech Republic: First lady pays tribute at concentration camp

First lady Laura Bush on Sunday placed a bouquet of lilies at the cemetery of an 18th century fortress the Nazis turned into a concentration camp.

Joining her, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda of Slovakia called the camp a symbol of the "xenophobia, intolerance and nationalism that is coming to life again" in Europe and around the world.

After Adolf Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Nazis turned the abandoned fortress in Terezin, some 35 miles outside Prague, into a camp for Jews, English prisoners of war, and citizens of the Soviet Union, Poland, Yugoslavia, France and Italy. More than 140,000 people suffered inside its cramped and dingy cement cells. Only a fraction, including 1,600 children, survived to see Terezin liberated by the Soviet Red Army in May 1945.

Vatican City: Pope expresses thanks for prayers for health

An exhausted-looking Pope John Paul II said Sunday that he drew comfort from all those praying for him to continue in his papacy, an apparent response to those saying his health problems might force him to step down.

A day after he turned 82, John Paul struggled to lead a 2 1/2 hour-long ceremony to raise a Spaniard and four Italians to sainthood. His head trembled as he said prayers before communion on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, and his words during the Mass were so slurred they were often unintelligible.

At the end of the service, before being whisked away in his "popemobile," John Paul thanked those offering encouraging wishes.

"In particular, I am comforted by the assurance of special prayers for my person and for carrying out the Petrine service, entrusted to me by the Lord," the pope said in a shaky voice. Petrine refers to the papacy.

Albania: U.S. ambassador dies of heart attack

Joseph Limprecht, the U.S. ambassador to Albania, died of a heart attack Sunday. He was 55.

The diplomat was ending a tour of northern Albanian districts and was about to stop in the scenic Lura Lakes area when he was stricken, a U.S. Embassy official said.

According to Albanian officials, three medical teams were rushed to the area by helicopter, but the ambassador's condition did not allow his evacuation to a hospital. He subsequently died of the heart attack.

Limprecht had served as ambassador to Albania since Sept. 9, 1999. His term was to end this summer.

Sierra Leone: Election gives rebels resounding defeat

President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was declared winner Sunday of Sierra Leone's first postwar elections, signaling a sweeping popular rejection of the rebels who waged one of Africa's most ruthless conflicts.

"We have lost, and we accept the people's verdict," said Pallo Bangura, the rebel-allied candidate who stood in place of their jailed founder, Foday Sankoh, in Tuesday's election.

Radio announcements of Kabbah's win sent people of the bullet-pocked capital, Freetown, running out to dance in the streets.

The National Election Commission said Sunday that Kabbah won with 70.6 percent of the vote well above the 55 percent he needed to avoid a runoff.

Kabbah took a new oath of office just hours after the last votes were tallied.

Colombia: Candidate cancels event after attack on office

With two new polls confirming his huge lead ahead of next week's presidential election, anti-guerrilla candidate Alvaro Uribe canceled one of his last campaign appearances Sunday for security reasons and bombs trashed one of his offices.

Uribe, who has promised to take a tough hand against Colombia's leftist rebels and to battle corruption, was within a hair of the majority he would need to win the May 26 vote outright and avoid a runoff, according to two polls published Sunday.

Appearing haggard at a news conference in Bogota, Uribe said he had called off a planned teleconference with people in more than a third of Colombia's towns for "security reasons." Sunday was the final day for candidates to campaign in public.

Uribe did not elaborate on the threat, but did confirm police reports that two small bombs had ripped through his campaign office the night before in the northern city of Valledupar. The blasts caused property damage but no injuries.

Spain: Thousands protest against globalization

Tens of thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators rallied peacefully Sunday through the center of Madrid, chanting against capitalism and war and dancing to the beating of drums.

Organizers said nearly 200,000 protesters marched behind banners that read: "No against the exploitation of Latin America" and "Against war and the Europe of capitalism." Many chanted "Another world is possible."

Police placed the figure at less than half of what organizers said.

Some Palestinian and Cuban flags could be seen as well as a reproduction of a caravel with "Colombia. State terrorism. No to the paramilitarism" written in the sail.

It was the last and the biggest of three demonstrations that were held over the weekend in the Spanish capital to protest European-Latin American summit, which gathered some 50 government leaders from the European Union, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The summit ended Saturday.

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